MANILA, Philippines – Lawyer Restituto Mendoza is seeking restitution for his sins of commission and omission as a former employee of Senator Manuel Villar Jr’s. housing empire.
Mendoza has filed a labor complaint before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) for his alleged illegal dismissal after refusing the game that Villar’s senior officers play.
In his complaint, he wrote that he turned a blind eye and deaf ears to the mischief that his employers were getting into and how they get out of trouble. But an unexpected twist of events made him see the light.
He is waging a lonely battle against the billionaire and his senior officers.
His labor complaint is also a tell-all account on how the businesses of Villar acquired land for property development.
Lawyer for land cases
Mendoza joined the Villar Group of companies in 2004 when he was hired to handle the problematic raw land cases of Adelfa Properties and Brittany Corp.
Among the cases that he won include the land dispute case of high-end subdivision Portofino; the contested Imus Estate, which was mortgaged by Adelfa to Ayala Land for its P300 million.
Mendoza was also behind the swapping of a property between Adelfa and Masaito Development Corp. in connection with the C-5 road extension project. Adelfa ended up getting two thirds of the proceeds for the right-of-way payments.
He also helped in negotiating settlement cases involving farmers and tenants.
In the course of his stint with Villar’s companies, he soon learned that things did not appear as they seemed.
When he found out that the documents he submitted in one case were falsified, Mendoza told his immediate boss, Atty. Ma. Nalen Rosario-Galang, Villar’s chief legal counsel, his fear of being disbarred if the other party had known about it.
“Nalen however brushed aside complainant’s concern even branding the latter as ‘chicken’ (easy). Nalen assured complainant not to worry because everyone will be paid, including the opposing parties,” Mendoza narrated in his complaint.
In about 100 cases that he handled and won, “complainant would inevitably know in the end that the favorable decisions that would hel securehis case was a result of “lakad” or bribery of public officials, judges and justices.”
He narrated that when his superiors sensed that he would not be a party to corruption, they schemed to demoralize him in the hope that he would soon quit. He was transferred to the group’s non-core businesses.
He wrote that he was eventually blamed for bungled operations and given orders difficult to implement. Then he was told that he had no more future in Villar’s company.
Out of frustration, Mendoza said that if they really wanted him to resign, they would have to pay him P25 million.
On May 22, 2009, Mendoza got a notice of termination “for serious misconduct, gross and habitual neglect of duties and willful breach of the trust and confidence by the Company.”
It said Mendoza lost company’s trust and confidence when he threatened during the performance appraisal meeting that he “will bring down the Company” with him.
Mendoza also warned Villar’s senior officers that he “knew something about the company’s boss (referring to Villar)” which they said was tantamount to blackmail. They said Mendoza threatened to provide documents to Villar’s political enemies and was asking P25 million in exchange for his cooperation.
For the money
Mendoza wrote in his complaint that he stayed as a lawyer for Villar’s companies for 5 years largely because of the compensation from his job. He was getting P100,000 for his legal services.
He was only getting P25,000 a month in his previous job as a lawyer handling pro-bono cases at the Chavez Miranda Aseoche Law Office.
But while former Solicitor General Frank Chavez inspired him at the law firm to champion the poor and condemn corruption, he decided to accept the offer from Villar’s company to serve as in-house counsel. He was about to get married and the fat pay check was inviting.
He wrote that the career move “would expose him not only to a life of luxury but also to a life of corruption within and (outside) his workplace and the very principles and morals he possessed would be put to a test.”
He pondered: “Would he choose a life of comfort in exchange for his principles? Would he just keep quiet about the corruption he just discovered? Does Senator Villar know about the policy of corruption of his senior officers?”
In an interview, Mendoza’s former boss Nalen Rosario-Galang said his allegations are all lies.
She explained that Mendoza has a problem with authority since he could not get along with superiors and colleagues. She also said he has illusions of grandeur.
“I did not see that (personality problem) when I hired him. I thought he was okay,” Galang said.
Galang said she asked around and found out that Mendoza had the same personality problems with his former employers.
Chavez, in a separate interview, debunked Galang’s claim on Mendoza behavior at work.
He said Mendoza was a team player. “I had no problems with him.”
Galang wondered why it took Mendoza five years to come out with his supposed expose, saying “this was contrary to human nature.” When asked why it took her five years to terminate Mendoza, Galang said she pitied Mendoza.
She acknowledged that Mendoza as a lawyer is effective. “He could have been second in command.”
Galang said she is preparing disbarment proceedings against Mendoza for violating the legal ethics of confidentiality between a lawyer and a client.
When asked why she will pursue a case against Mendoza only now, she said she had not wanted to dignify Mendoza’s allegations. With reports and additional research from Ma. Althea Teves and Purple Romero, abs-cbnnews.com/Newsbreak